Now, the open-wheelers are returning. As reported in Thursday's Daily News the Pocono IndyCar 400 is scheduled for July 7, 2013, the first of at least three scheduled races at the mountaintop tri-oval. Pocono also will host its traditional NASCAR Sprint Cup races on June 9 and Aug. 4.
Three races in 3 months . . . Pocono will be a busy, busy place.
"The excitement is through the roof," Pocono president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky said Monday on a conference call. "The true IndyCar fans remember what Pocono was about in the 1970s and '80s and I think a lot of them will come back in droves. People have already started to book rooms in area hotels."
Since NASCAR has taken over at Pocono and Dover International Speedway in Delaware the past two decades, seeing the crowds the Pocono IndyCar 400 attracts will be interesting. Several years ago, when Dover hosted two IndyCar Series races, the "crowds" were minimal, as in 10,000 to 15,000.
"We have a number that we need," Igdalsky said. "From the feedback we're getting, we're pretty confident we'll get it. I think it will take a few years to build the crowd."
Randy Bernard, CEO of the Izod IndyCar Series, cited "tradition" and the fact that Pocono was designed for blinking-fast open-wheel cars as reasons for returning to the track.
Mario Andretti and his son Michael raced at Pocono many times.
"You have no idea how I welcome this news," Mario Andretti said Monday from his Nazareth, Pa., home. "The facility is brilliant. It's up to snuff in every way. The drivers will love the track. The cars are so suited for it."
Next year, the IndyCar series will include a $1 million Triple Crown bonus to the driver who wins Pocono, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale in California.
Pocono, the only oval race added to next year's IndyCar lineup, will be one of 19 races at 16 venues next year. Saturday-Sunday doubleheaders are scheduled for Detroit, Toronto and Houston. The Grand Prix of Baltimore will again be held Labor Day weekend.
Contact Bill Fleischman at email@example.com.